number of 2020 Democratic Presidential candidates is growing like
weeds, with Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Elizabeth Warren having formally
entered the race since last week. Several others are on their way.
Of those who have announced, or are on the verge of doing so, let’s
examine a few more on their public education and progressive street
Kirsten Gillibrand has reinvented herself from a center-right leaning
Democrat who had previously received a 100% ranking from the National
Rifle Association (NRA). She functioned as a surrogate of the
Clintons while running for Congress and angling for her appointment
to the U.S. Senate, and like the Clintons, Gillibrand played footsie
with the charter school lobby. Originally against same-sex marriage,
she evolved to embrace it as Democrats and the nation began to move
toward approval. Gillibrand has kept her finger continually in the
air to follow the winds of political change.
the Democratic Party’s turn to the left during the Kavanaugh
hearings and before the 2018 midterms, she denounced Bill Clinton,
saying he should have resigned during the Monica Lewinsky scandal.
Gillibrand was then born again as an advocate for gun control after
having been an avid public sponsor of gun rights. She then started
to promote criminal justice reform and other progressive issues.
Gillibrand quickly pledged her backing to Denver, Colorado teachers
who went on strike earlier this week. It is ironic that one of the
key issues driving the walkout was their opposition to the increase
in charter schools.
Amy Klobuchar has been a low key backer of charter schools and
national standardized testing, which the vast majority of teachers
resist, while expressing her overall endorsement of public education
since her mother was an elementary school teacher. She is also an
avid champion of STEM education. In 2017, Klobuchar went to the
floor of the Senate to argue against the nomination of Betsy DeVos
for U.S. Secretary of Education taking a stand in concert with
Sen. Cory Booker, she used this opportunity to endear herself to
teachers in an effort to expand her base of support while she
contemplated a run for president. Klobuchar has walked a tightrope
on charter schools in Minnesota which was one of the cradles for
their development and expansion.
California, Sen. Kamala Harris announced her run for president at a
huge rally of more than 25,000 people more than a week ago. She has
expressed her support for teachers, chronicled her fight against
charter schools, and has advocated higher pay for teachers. But she
has been silent on her aggressive anti-truancy policy that she
implemented during her term as California’s Attorney General.
The policy fined parents for their children’s excessive school
absences that had a particularly harsh impact on poor parents,
leading to it being rescinded.
such program had been implemented at the state level since Republican
Gov. Tommy Thompson spearheaded a ‘learnfare initiative’
in Wisconsin during the early 1990s as part of his welfare reform
package. But her sternest challenge may be explaining her
contributions to mass incarceration of minority males with her
support of draconian prosecutions and three strikes sentencing
reforms. In addition, she refused to acknowledge a prosecutor’s
manufacture of evidence in a highly controversial trial and
has to be fearful of noted criminal justice professor, columnist, and
mass incarceration expert, Michelle Alexander. Alexander’s
revealing essays and public statements on Hillary Clinton’s
labeling of young black males as super-predators, and her support of
President Clinton’s Crime Bill, depressed black male turnout
and votes for the Democratic presidential ticket in 2016,
contributing to Hillary’s narrow losses in Michigan,
Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin which made Trump president. If Atty.
Alexander critically examines Sen. Harris’s complete record as
California Attorney General and as District Attorney of San
Francisco, enthusiasm for her campaign may be dampened.
Congressman Beto O’Rourke, who is likely to announce his
presidential candidacy in the very near future, has spoken eloquently
about the need for additional funding for K-12 public education and
the professionalization of teachers. Yet he has been strangely
silent about public charter schools. His wife Amy, an ardent charter
school advocate, has served as superintendent of a public charter
school in El Paso, Texas.
the meantime, Beto has steadfastly avoided taking public positions on
charters while Amy has “…
El Paso to charter school networks that might consider the region for
Amy and Beto apparently share the same fondness for charter schools
as does his 2018 opponent for the U.S. Senate, incumbent Sen. Ted
Cruz. They seemingly have dual allegiances—to the Cartel of
private-sector education reformers and the national teachers unions.
Will they continue to work the public and private sides of the
educational aisle if he runs for President of the United States?
far, prospective 2020 Democratic presidential candidates appear to be
lukewarm allies of teachers and other progressive issues. Educators
will have to take their measure as they have a year before voting in
the Democratic primaries begins.
the aggressive assaults on teachers by public school privatization
advocates at the state and federal levels, it is imperative that
teachers carefully vet the contestants. If they choose unwisely,
then they will aid and abet their own professional and economic
destruction. Teachers need to pay close attention to contenders’
records on public education and progressive matters before making
their final choice. They will be the linchpins as to whether a
Democrat can retake the White House.